Sling-ing in the (money) rain

Exclusive: Connected Home has become one of the main themes of investment for venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. And the hottest deal to catch the imagination of carpet baggers is a little known company called Sling Media, a quasi-stealth mode company based in Silicon Valley. The company is about to nail some serious VC dollars – somewhere in the $10-to-$20 million range in a round which has most majors salivating. The lead investor, sources tell me, is Mobius Venture Capital, while Microsoft is said to be coming in as a strategic investor. There are a couple of others who are kicking in a few millions. So what does the company do?

The SlingBox Personal Broadcaster extends a user’s LIVE Cable TV, Satellite TV or personal video recorder (PVR) experience to any of his or her connected personal devices. SlingBox delivers a complete personal TV experience to networked PCs, WiFi-enabled laptops and PDAs, and even video-enabled mobile phones. Any device. Any network. Anywhere in the world.

In other words the shows recorded on your TiVo in Palo Alto can be watched over the Internet, say in Tokyo. The data is streamed to you over a secure tunnel, and since it does not involve any downloading (only streaming), you cannot get into legal trouble. Remember the old ruling that said it was okay to share VHS tapes with nearest and dearest. Same logic applies here as well. Gizmodo has a better description, in english.

The idea is simple: hook up the little $200 box to your TiVo or your cable box and connect it to your home internet. Then, when you’re out and about, just pull up the client software on your PDA or laptop. SlingBox’s software will detect the quality and throughput of your connection and shoot you our a recompressed, digital stream of whatever analog signal you could be watching at home. It would even work on cellphones, they say, if the bandwidth were there (and it will be Real Soon Now).

“At its heart is software that detects the size of the handheld screen and the speed of the Internet link, then compresses the broadcast into suitably sized digital chunks. It works like a long-distance remote control,” founder Blake Krikorian told Forbes. Blake, in case you don’t know him, is a dude who worked at General Magic, back in the day.

200 Gig IPod?

Not anytime soon, but some day in the near future one could expect IPod with a massive 200 GB drive, and one would have to thank PMR for it.

Perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) will be the next big leap in the hard drive storage technology, and while it is too early to predict its long term business implications, the hard disk drive makers are banking on this new technology. Why? because it changes the current status quo of profitless prosperity in the HDD industry. From 1990 through 2002, HDD makers have given customers more of the same. HDD capacity increased by a compound growth rate of 93% per year, with equally spectacular price declines.

The reason it was made possible was due to industry’s move from oxide media to thin film media. Then, in the early 1990’s, in quick succession, the readback heads – which were inductors akin to miniature electrical transformers – were repand then by giant magnetoresistive (GMR) heads.

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